A uncontrolled highway pileup can quickly turn your winter driving trip into a nightmare. Whether the wreck involves dozens of cars and trucks, or just a few, the results could be deadly. To stay safe, experts say motorists must understand their travel conditions, make smart preparations prior to driving, and make constant driving modifications while behind the wheel.
Fog mixed with snow, ice or rain could create a trifecta of driving problems: obstructed field of vision, diminished tire traction and, ultimately, the risk of losing control of your vehicle. Here are 12 Winter Driving Tips that you can use to help improve your chances of avoiding a dangerous highway pileup.
Pay attention to what is happening around you to help anticipate accidents, and leave extra distance between you and the car in front of you.
Winter Driving Tips – Before Your Leave
- Know The Weather Forecast – Knowing the weather conditions during the winter months is perhaps the most critical winter time driving tip. Even drivers in four-wheel drive vehicles or all-wheel drive vehicles can slide on pockets of ice, especially on interstate bridges where the road surface is colder.
- Properly Maintain Your Car – When the weather turns bad, it’s CRITICAL that you have covered the basics – Your tires are in good shape, your windshield wipers are working at their best, your headlights and taillights are functional, your mirrors and windows are clear. If your vehicle is not in tip-top shape, consider yourself GROUNDED when the weather forecast turns sour. Just don’t risk it until you get the basics covered.
- Plan for the Worst – Before you leave for your trip, consider what you would do if you were involved in a car wreck during bad weather, and had to wait for hours – perhaps on the side of the road – for help to arrive and the road to be cleared. Take cold-weather gear with you, some food, and some water. Make sure your phone is fully charged, and that you have plenty of fuel to make the trip – including unexpected delays.
- Give Yourself Extra Time – Expect delays and don’t pressure yourself with an unrealistic travel time. You’ll want to make other arrangements if you feel you have to rush to “make it” in bad weather. Re-plan, instead of rush.
- Don’t Take the Highway – During extreme weather, one important winter driving tips is to consider using alternate routes to and from your destination. However, keep in mind that secondary roads may not be as clear as primary roads during and immediately after a snow storm.
- Stay Home – The only sure-fire way to avoid a highway pileup or other weather related crash is to simply stay put. If the trip isn’t urgent, delay it until the weather clears and visibility improves.
Winter Driving Tips – Behind The Wheel
- Slow Down – Drive at a slow but consistent speed and avoid jamming on the breaks or turning suddenly, as these actions can trigger accidents if you are unlucky. If you are aware of a potential snow storm, you will want to leave plenty of time to arrive at your destination safely.
- Watch the Truckers For Road Condition Clues – Professional over-the-road truckers communicate to each other about road conditions and weather more quickly and more often than any news broadcast or fancy phone app. IF you find yourself suddenly in a winter squall or reduced viability, watch what the truckers are doing around you. If they are exiting the road, pulling over, slowing down, moving right – consider following their lead. They may know something you don’t about what’s up ahead, and this may be one of the best winter driving tips you can use to help you with what’s ahead.
- Do Not Tailgate – Do not follow anyone (including big trucks) too closely in bad weather. And remember that large trucks take MUCH longer to stop – especially on slippery highways. Give them plenty of room, and if one is tailgating you, best to move over and let them by instead of hoping it can stop in time if you need to stop suddenly.
- Understand that 4WD Is Not Magic – Your SUV with AWD, or your truck in 4WD will not help you stop any sooner in the event of a pileup on the highway. 4WD MAY help you exit the road after you’ve stopped safely, and have a safe way to leave the road. This might help you get out of the way of other vehicles still approaching the pile up from the rear.
- Use Your Low-Beam Headlights – Your high-beams may actually reflect light back into your eyes off of snow or fog, making it harder for you to see what’s in front of you. Use your regular headlights (low beams) so that you are seen by other motorists ahead of you.
- Use Your Blinkers and Move Slowly if Changing Lanes – Be as obvious and smooth in your movements as possible. Never assume that the drivers around you can see you, or have noticed that you are changing lanes.